Stephen Hesse: A road to ancient history's ruin (Ireland)

Roundup: Talking About History

Irish politician Dick Roche is in the business of government, and his two-decades-long career has touched on public administration, finance, transportation and economic planning and development.

Unfortunately, he has little or no professional knowledge of environment, anthropology, archaeology or history -- or if he does, he has kept it off his Web site and well hidden from the public.

Nevertheless, in September 2004 Roche was appointed Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, and now has "sole discretion in deciding whether any archaeological site is a national monument and what to do with it -- including authorising its demolition," according to Frank McDonald, Environment Editor of the Irish Times, writing in a March 2006 article.

And authorizing demolition is exactly what Roche has done. Not just one or two historical sites, but demolition on a grand scale: a 60-km, four-lane motorway that will condemn 700 hectares of land to development, including at least 156 known archaeological sites ranging from burial sites and buildings to settlements.

The motorway, known as the M3, is projected to run between Clonee and Kells and will supplement the N3, a two-lane road that runs through County Meath, just northwest of Dublin. Inevitably the M3 will also bring increased traffic, mounting air pollution, urban sprawl -- and even more development.

Experts are certain that many more archeological sites will surface as well, but the greatest tragedy is that the M3 will carve through the lush green fields that sweep up to the Hill of Tara, bisecting and degrading an ancient valley rich in unique sites of historical and cultural significance.

The Hill of Tara, also known as the Hill of Kings, is a long, low hill that rises between the towns of Navan and Dunshaughlin, southwest of the River Boyne. At the top the hill is a large ringfort of mounded earth that encircles two more ringforts, one of which surrounds a meter-high, phallic standing stone, the Lia Fail, or Stone of Destiny. It is here that the High Kings of Ireland were crowned. ...

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